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What is Six Sigma: Everything You Need to know About it

Published On: January 13, 2023

Although Six Sigma truly has roots in a 19th-century mathematical theory, it was an engineer at Motorola who, in the 1980s, pioneered its use in the modern commercial world. Six Sigma has been developed and honed over the years into what is now recognized as one of the leading methodological methods for enhancing customer satisfaction and corporate operations.

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What is Six Sigma?

Businesses are provided with the tools they need to run their operations more successfully through the Six Sigma technique. It is possible to cut defect rates, promote employee morale, and improve output quality through performance improvement and process variation reduction all of which contribute to greater profitability.

How Six Sigma Started?

19th Century: The bell curve was created by German mathematician and physicist Carl Fredrich Gauss. The bell curve was an early tool for identifying mistakes and flaws in a process since it introduced the idea of what a normal distribution looks like.

The 1920s: This concept was developed by American physicist, engineer, and statistician Walter Shewhart, who showed that “sigma should be employed where a process needs tweaking.”

The 1980s: According to “Six Sigma” by Mikel Harry and Richard Schroeder, Motorola was the firm that popularized Six Sigma by applying the concept to improve product consistency.

Finally, Bill Smith, a Motorola engineer, later rose to prominence as one of the founders of contemporary Six Sigma, developing many of the approaches that are being used today in the field in the late 1980s. Other management improvement techniques of the day, such as Total Quality Management and Zero Defects, influence the system but are not similar to it.

Does it function? Motorola stated in 2006 that Six Sigma had helped the firm save $17 billion.

The Importance of People in Six Sigma

  • The support and buy-in of executives are crucial elements of a successful Six Sigma implementation. 
  • When no one in the organization has bought into the process, it does not work as well.
  • The training of employees at all organizational levels is a further crucial component. 
  • Generally, White Belts and Yellow Belts are given a fundamental to Six Sigma concepts and theories. 
  • Typically, Green Belts assist Black Belts on projects by gathering and analyzing data. While Master Black Belts look for ways to implement Six Sigma throughout a business, Black Belts manage projects.

Five Key Principles of Six Sigma

Delivering nearly perfect products and services for company transformation to maximize customer satisfaction is the straightforward objective of the Six Sigma approach (CX).

Two strategies are used to accomplish goals:

Identification of the Problem:

  • From what should be and what is, where does a function derive?
  • Is it critical enough to require revision?

How to Fix the Problem

  • The function’s state is changed from “what is” to “what should be.”
  • ensuring that the change is put into practice to achieve the desired results

Be Customer-Centric

This is based on the saying, “The customer is king,” which is rather common. The maximization of the customer’s benefits is the main objective. To do this, a company must comprehend its clients as per their wants, needs, and factors that influence loyalty or sales. To do this, a quality standard must be established based on what the market or the client needs.

Analyze the Supply Chain to Find the Problem

Create a process map to identify waste areas in a process. Identify the particular problem that needs to be corrected or improved by gathering information. Establish standardized data collection methods and have goals for data collection that are clearly specified, including the data to be collected, the reason for the data collection, the expected insights, and the assurance of measurement accuracy.

Determine whether the data is assisting in achieving the goals, whether it needs to be adjusted, and whether more information needs to be gathered. Determine the issue. Investigate and identify the underlying issue.

Eliminate the Clutter

Once the problem has been identified, change the process to eliminate variance and any resulting faults. Process steps that don’t add value for the customer should be dropped. If the value stream is unable to identify the problem’s location, tools are used to help detect the outliers and trouble spots. Processes should be made more efficient and effective. Finally, by getting rid of the aforementioned waste, process bottlenecks are removed.

Roll the Ball Around

Make everyone equal who could be interested. Adopt a disciplined strategy where your staff participates and collaborates to find solutions to issues using their range of expertise. The team must be aware about the guiding principles and methodology because the implementation of Six Sigma procedures can have a substantial influence on a firm. Therefore, specialized training and knowledge are required to reduce the risk of project or re-design failures and to ensure that the process runs as efficiently as possible.

Ensure that the Ecosystem is Responsive and Adaptable.

Change and transformation in the business environment are at the heart of Six Sigma. When a flawed or ineffective system is abandoned, a shift in working methods and employee behavior is required. A strong culture of flexibility and response to changes in protocols ensures effective project execution. To make it simpler for the affected departments and personnel to adapt to change, processes should be developed for swift and seamless adoption.

Ultimately, the company that closely monitors the data consistently examines the bottom line and adjusts its processes as necessary can gain a competitive edge.

Methodologies of Six Sigma

There are two basic approaches to Six Sigma, both of which are composed of five sections, according to Joseph A.

DMAIC: The DMAIC method is mostly used to enhance current business procedures. The symbols represent:

Define the Issue and the Project Objectives

The Six Sigma methodology begins with a customer-centric approach.

Step 1: The business problem is defined from the viewpoint of the client.

Step 2: Set goals. What do you want to achieve? What instruments will you use to achieve the goals?

Step 3: Draw a flowchart of the process. Confirm with the stakeholders that you are moving in the right direction.

Measure each Component of the Present Process in Detail

The key subjects of the second phase are the project metrics and the measuring equipment. What can you improve upon? How do you gauge this?

Step 1: Quantify your issue or offer statistics to back it up.

Step 2: Define the performance yardstick. Correct the “Y” limit ranges.

Step 3: Evaluate the suggested measurement system. Can it help you reach your objective?

Analyze Data to Identify Process Flaws at their Core, among Other Things

The third stage looks at the process to determine the influencing elements.

Step 1: Evaluate your process’s efficacy and efficiency. Does the process help you accomplish your objectives?

Step 2: Assign a number to each of your objectives. Take a 20% reduction in defective items, for instance.

Step 3: To detect variations, use historical data.

Enhance the Procedure

This procedure looks into how modifications to “X” affect “Y.” In this stage, you’ll figure out how to make the process implementation better.

Step 1: List potential causes. Determine which of the “X” factors from Process III has an impact on “Y” by conducting a test.

Step 2: Find out how the variables are related in step two.

Step 3: The precise range of values that specific variables, such as the capacity of a specific product, can have while still falling within acceptable limitations, is known as process tolerance. Which limits are required for X to maintain Y’s boundaries? What parts of the process might have an impact on the outcome? To achieve process tolerances, tools such as robust optimization and validation sets can be used.

Having Control over Future Execution of the Process

In this final stage, you evaluate the viability of the specified improvements as well as the efficacy with which the performance objective identified in the previous stage has been accomplished.

Step 1: Validate the intended measurement system.

Step 2: Establishing process capabilities. Is the goal being attained? Will the goal of a 20% decrease in defective goods, for example, be attained?

Step 3: After the first two steps are finished, begin applying the procedure.

DMADV: New processes, goods, and services are frequently developed using the DMADV technique. The symbols represent:

  • Set the project’s objectives.
  • Analyze the capacities of key process and product elements.
  • Analyze the data, create a number of process designs, and choose the best one.
  • Process design and testing specifics
  • Verify the design using simulations and a pilot program before turning the process on to the client.

Six Sigma Techniques

The Six Sigma methodology also integrates tried-and-true qualitative and quantitative techniques with statistics and data analysis tools, such as process design and mapping, to achieve the desired result. Many different management tools are used in Six Sigma.


Brainstorming is an essential element in any problem-solving process, especially during the “improve” phase of the DMAIC technique. It is a necessary process before using any tools. Intense, unstructured group discussions are known as brainstorming, and they are used to generate creative answers to issues. A facilitator, who is frequently the lead Black Belt or Green Belt, leads an open session.

The 5 Whys/Root Cause Analysis

This approach is used to aid in determining the root causes of the issues being researched during the “analysis” phase of the DMAIC cycle.

The “why” question is asked repeatedly until it identifies the core issue in the “5 Whys” approach. The actual number of questions can be larger or lower depending on what is required to gain clarity, while “five” serves as a basic guideline.

Customer Voice

This process is employed to gather customer feedback or the “voice of the customer” via internal or external channels. The strategy attempts to give the client the best products and services possible. It catches the client’s altering requirements through both direct and indirect methods. The voice of the customer methodology is often applied during the “define” step of the DMAIC method to further identify the problem that needs to be solved.

The 5S System

This approach is based on a notion of workplace energy popular in Japan. The 5S System strives to remove waste and bottlenecks in the workplace that are brought on by inefficient tools, resources, or equipment.

  • Seiri (Sort)
  • Seiton (Set in Order)
  • Seiso (Shine)
  • Seiketsu (Standardize)
  • Shitsuke (Sustain)

Kaizen (Continuous Improvement)

A potent tactic that drives a constant engine for corporate improvement is the kaizen technique. Continuous monitoring, improvement identification, and implementation are all part of the approach. This method is very beneficial for the manufacturing industry. Waste is decreased because of constant, collective improvements, and anytime even the smallest inefficiency is noticed, something is changed right away.


The method of benchmarking uses a predetermined unit of measurement. Getting an unbiased assessment of the current situation requires establishing comparisons with other companies. Few examples of how benchmarking can be used to compare critical business processes or departments:

  • Internal benchmarking 
  • Functional benchmarking, or
  • Comparing similar work functions with industry leaders (competitive benchmarking)

Poka-yoke (Mistake Proofing)

The name of this strategy, which means “to avoid errors” in Japanese, refers to reducing the likelihood that mistakes will be made. Employees use the poka-yoke approach to identify and correct human faults and inefficiencies during the manufacturing process.

Value Stream Mapping

The value stream mapping technique maps the current flow of materials and information to plan a future project. Processes are to be made more efficient, and waste and inefficiencies in the value chain are to be removed. It covers seven different trash kinds and three distinct rubbish collection services.

Popular Six Sigma Tools

  • Cause and Effect Analysis
  • Flow Chart
  • Pareto Chart
  • Histogram
  • Check Sheet
  • Scatter Plot
  • Control Chart

Six Sigma Levels

The Six Sigma training levels adhere to predetermined qualifications, employment standards, and educational prerequisites.

White Belt

This is the easiest stage, during which

  • It is open to newcomers.
  • On tasks involving problem-solving, people work in groups.
  • The participant must comprehend the fundamental ideas of Six Sigma.

Yellow Belt

The participant here:

  • Participates as a team member on a project.
  • Examines procedural upgrades.
  • Gains knowledge of DMAIC and other approaches.

Green Level

The following requirements are necessary for this level of expertise:

  • Three years or more of continuous employment.
  • Recognize the techniques and tools available for problem-solving.
  • Practical experience working on initiatives that involve some sort of business transformation.
  • Guidance on data gathering and analysis for Black Belt projects.
  • In charge of Green Belt teams or projects.

Black Level

The following are included at this level:

  • Three years at least of full-time work
  • Working knowledge of a fundamental subject
  • Proof of finishing at least two Six Sigma projects
  • Expertise in using multivariate analytics in a variety of business change scenarios
  • Directing varied teams through projects to solve problems.
  • Project team coaching and training.

Master Black Belt

To get to this level, an applicant must:

  • Own a Black Belt certification
  • Have worked full-time for at least five years, or have Proof of finishing at least 10 Six Sigma projects
  • A demonstrated job history and individual criteria, such as those listed here, for example.
  • Black Belts and Green Belts that I have coached and trained.
  • Create important measurements and plans.
  • Have experience working as an organization’s internal business transformation counselor and Six Sigma technician.

What are the Career Options and Salary Prospects for Six Sigma?

Six Sigma is a terrific approach to advancing your career with smart job titles and competitive income opportunities. Numerous businesses, including 3M, Abbott Laboratories, General Electric, The Hershey Company, IBM, Honeywell, Newell Rubbermaid, Siemens, and Wells Fargo, regularly hire applicants to fill open roles in the Sigma Six methodology.

Engineers in manufacturing, compliance and operating systems are among the career options available to Six Sigma experts.

Additionally, although the specific nomenclature varies from firm to organization, there are employment prospects with the following titles:

  • Six Sigma Analyst
  • Six Sigma Consultant
  • Six Sigma Black Belt
  • Functional Project Lead
  • Director of Operational Excellence
  • Six Sigma Projects Manager
  • Senior Project Manager
  • Lead Analyst/Project Manager
  • Business Process Manager

A Six Sigma Green Belt-qualified individual may anticipate earning an average yearly salary of $68,840, according to Glassdoor.

What are the Career Options and Salary Prospects for Six Sigma?

A data-driven methodology called Six Sigma offers tools and procedures to describe and assess each stage of a process. It offers ways to raise the effectiveness of a business structure, the standard of the process, and the overall profit. Boost your career through our Data Analytics Course in Chennai at SLA Institute.

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